Restaurant With Kids? You’ve Got This
I tapped chefs and food professionals for their advice on family dining at nice restaurants. Here are my additional recommendations,
from getting the lay of the land to keeping a trough-load of tricks up your sleeve.
Pick Up the Phone
Call in advance and ask about the best family friendly tables, perhaps in a lively bar area or on an outdoor patio. The right setting can make the occasional kiddie squeal less cringe-worthy.
Know When To Throw in Your Hand
Is your kid acting up? Take them outside for a breather. They can burn off some energy, and you won’t disturb other diners.
Pick an Off Time
Traveling with young kids doesn't mean having to miss out on destination restaurants, but you might want to opt for a lunch service instead of dinner, or book a table during slower hours. In London, I was dying to eat at Ottolenghi but was anxious about bringing Thomas, who, at 15 months, was at a particularly squirmy age. We went at 2:30 PM and made the meal relatively quick. (To my surprise, they were well equipped with IKEA high chairs.)
Dress for the Occasion
Will your three-year-old spill all over his new button-down shirt? Yes. But you should still put it to use, and—just like on an airplane—an adorable outfit might earn you a few encouraging smiles from neighboring tables.
See the Bigger Picture
Dining out teaches kids about different foods, social and cultural norms, and table manners and conversation. It may be hard to appreciate this as they pick every fleck of basil out of their pasta, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
When in Rome
Take heart in the fact that parents often dine out with their kids in other countries. Unlike in the U.S., where showing up with a kid at a non-chain restaurant can feel embarrassing, family dining is expected in places like Mexico and Italy.
Say No to Screens
Think twice before handing your kiddo an iPad or cell phone, especially in certain countries like France where the practice isn’t common. Restaurants are a great places to brush up on manners and practice the art of conversation—even if it is about super heroes and rocket ships.